Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Williamson Kinematograph Co

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  • 1855 James Williamson was born in Pathhead, near Kirkaldy in Scotland on 8 November, and trained in London to become a master chemist.
  • 1886 He moved to Hove, East Sussex, with his wife and family to establish a pharmacy. For the next decade, Williamson developed a keen interest in photography and optical entertainments, and as a Kodak agent acquired a good understanding of photography's technical and chemical nature.
  • 1896 He introduced X-Ray photography to Sussex and in November presented the first programme of films to the Camera Club at Hove Town Hall.
  • 1897 Williamson began to make films and his first catalogue of 1899 listed sixty titles, the majority of which were single shots between sixty and seventy-five feet in length.
  • 1902 Williamson's commitment to narrative fiction continued with two 'picture stories', as he referred to them, based on the experiences of soldiers returning home from South Africa. In 1902 the Williamson Kinematograph Co opened its first purpose-built film production studio and film processing works in Hove. His family played a distinctive role in the new business by helping to create scenarios and make sets and costumes, and taking acting roles, big and small. Tom Williamson's participation vividly expressed his enthusiasm for film-making and his father's provocative imagination.
  • 1907 Williamson's dramas and comedies were sold and exhibited across Europe and America. In 1907 his son Alan opened the company's New York office and in 1909 James attended the European Convention of Film Producers and Publishers in Paris. But in that same year changes in the world film market led Williamson to withdraw from film production.
  • 1910 The company moved to London, where it concentrated entirely on manufacturing cameras and printers. The Williamson apparatus acquired an excellent reputation and was used throughout the world.
  • James Williamson died of a heart attack at his home in Richmond, Surrey, on 18 August 1933.

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Sources of Information

  • [1] Screen Online